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Edward Shorter

and Max Fink

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date: 02 March 2021

In a debate about a possible psychology of catatonia, those who argued that patients’ minds were blank during stupor vied against those who saw that stuporous patients were filled with fear and apprehension. The latter won out. It became clear that sometimes a fearful or traumatic event itself sufficed to trigger catatonia. The “blank slate” school were led by Karl Kleist in Frankfurt and a group of German neurologists. Karl Leonhard, an acolyte of this school, authored an elaborate classification of catatonia. The “fear and apprehension school” were led by a number of psychologically minded psychiatrists in Germany and France. A wide international variety of clinical observations confirm the role of fear, including the formation of catatonic symptoms in people experiencing extreme stress.

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